Alberta Ellis

Alberta Ellis ran a two-story bed and breakfast on Benton Street in Springfield, MO.  She also had an area called the “Rumpus Room” at the same establishment where kids could socialize and dance.  According to Norma S. Duncan (see travelers section) who grew up in Springfield, Alberta was a strict chaperon.  After the Springfield schools were integrated in 1954, Norma recalls that for the most part African American kids and white kids did not mix much socially.  At the Rumpus Room, however, it wasn’t uncommon for some of the white highschool boys to hang out with some of their peers who they had gotten to know through sports.  If anyone got out of line, Alberta kicked them out regardless of race.   As time went on, more and more white kids started liking “Race Music” which was how older people referred to music made by African Americans.  It was hard to find on the radio, and Norma describes turning the dial to try and pick up broadcasts from Texas, where you could hear performers like B.B. King and Muddy Waters.  When you did, you called other kids and let them know what you’d heard!

For more information:

Missouri State Archives – Katherine Lederer Collection



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